When It Rains…


A week ago, my live-in girlfriend decided to call it quits almost exactly 2 years to the day after she moved in with me.  To say this weekend got off to a bad start would be putting it mildly.

The OrthoCarolina Classic 10K

At least there was a new 10K in town and I looked forward to running it.  This week’s workouts had gone better than the last few weeks’, personal problems notwithstanding.  The week’s runs served as great diversions and I thought I might be able to bounce back from the slump.  I skipped my scheduled 50-minute tempo with the plan of replacing it with the 10K.

I had a tentative gameplan for the race – start out at about 6:30 pace for the first mile, then evaluate.  If I felt good, push things and shoot for a PR.  If I felt bad, back off as I had a progression run on tap for Sunday.

I felt good through the first mile, a 6:27, but it was admittedly all downhill.  Once we started climbing, I started faltering.  Bob Heck casually strolled by me.  Shortly thereafter, so did Derrick.  Then Mitchell.  Then a couple of guys I didn’t know.  And finally, Nathan, who was just doing a workout, blew by me shortly after mile 5.  I crawled to a 43:49 finish, nearly the identical time I ran at the Swedish SummeRun in Seattle on a much tougher course.  I left the race feeling a bit more dejected.

Blowing Off Steam at Shake the Lake

Now feeling a full-fledged depression coming on, I looked for an outlet to blow off some steam.  I took a quick glance around the Internetz and found just what the doctor ordered, Shake the Lake, the huge end-of-summer bash put on annually by Midtown Sundries.  Free flowing booze by noon sounded like a good idea.

I walked the 2+ miles to the bar to ensure there would be no temptation to drive afterwards and then started throwing back beers.  For the first time in recent memory, I went double-fisted.  While not exactly a gathering of Nobel laureates, these were nevertheless my people, real-life Southerners that had grown up within a 20-mile radius, the people I went to high school with and feel comfortable around.  Pretension is not allowed at Shake the Lake.  Cut-offs, flip-flops, wife-beaters, and shirtless, obese men are all welcome, but pretension is not.

I never forgot that I had a 16-mile run planned for Sunday, or that Kevin and I had agreed to meet early. 

I planned to drink until just before 8, go home, watch the Panthers pre-season game, and make it to bed early so I’d get to the run without incident.

But after a few hours and countless beers,  I found out some friends of mine were having a little get together and they invited me over.  As I obviously couldn’t drive, one of the hosts picked me up.  The consumption of beers continued well past dusk.

A few hours later, while at the party, I looked around the house and could not spot a single adult without an alcoholic beverage in hand.  There was some slurred speech and I thought I detected some loss of motor skills.  But no big deal – I knew I was within a few miles of home.  I’m a long-distance runner for chrissakes.  I set out on foot.

Nearly 5 miles, a little over an hour, and a few open wounds later (on my feet thanks to the chafing properties of flip-flops – be forewarned all you minimalist buffs out there), I stumbled into my home.  I took a quick shower and hopped in bed and what little sleep time I had left was instead spent tossing and turning (visions of a nightmarish scene from Season 2 of Breaking Bad played incessantly in my head – those of you who watched that season of this brilliant show should know what I’m talking about).  At 6:30, with virtually no sleep, I headed out for my long run.

Wait.  It Gets Worse.

With Kevin only scheduled for 9-10 miles, while I was supposed to go 16-18, we worked out an arrangement where we could still run together for much of the run.  I’d start from Caribou Coffee at 7:00, take off down David Taylor, then hop on the University Greenway towards the famed Bridge to Nowhere.  Kevin would start at 7:30 and if things worked out right, we’d meet on David Taylor after I ran the length of the trail and back.  

I pulled into the parking lot around 6:55.  Waking up with the dreaded cotton mouth, I had downed some 3 bottles of Gatorade in the last hour and now a liquid by-product desperately wanted out.  I spotted an isolated corner of the parking lot, behind a dumpster, trotted over, and started to dispose of what-used-to-be-Gatorade.

But before I could begin, I felt seering pain around my ankles.  I looked down and saw my legs, from knee to toe, covered in ants and not just any ants, fireants.  Anyone looking behind the dumpster was treated to the entertaining scene of a mad man mercilessly beating himself around the ankles. 

I ran away from the bully ants’ home turf, yanking my shoes and socks off in the process.  The carnage that ensued left thousands of ants deceased and my ankles red and stinging.

But Wait.  It Gets Even Worse.

I eventually managed to rid myself of all ants and begin my run and things were fine, initially.  Before arriving, I had abandoned all hopes of a significant progression run (one where at least the last few miles are run at goal marathon pace).  I was taking things nice and slow as I knew I’d be struggling to keep up once The Gypsy Kid arrived.

On my way to the Bridge to Nowhere, I crossed under I-85.  But the recent downpour had left the trail flooded.  So I tiptoed onto the large rocks on the embankment until I was past the flooded section.  I made it all the way to the end of the trail, slapped the end railing of the B.T.N. as is always done to indicate I had indeed made it, and then turned back.  As I reapproached the flooded section under 85, I spotted Kevin on the other side.  I yelled ‘Turn around bro, it’s flooded’ and he did.  I followed my same path as before, along the rocks.

Then suddenly, I did my best Eli Manning impression and no, I did not throw a miraculous Super Bowl pass to David Tyree.  I mean I impersonated this Eli Manning:

Eli Manning does his best Allen Strickland impression.

Apparently, this time around, I had made the mistake of stepping one rock too high.  Whack!  I cracked my noggin on the overpass.  And it hurt.  I mean like punched-in-the-head-by-Anderson-Silva hurt.  I reached up and wiped my forehead and yep, sure enough, copius blood flow (although I somehow managed to keep it off my white visor).  But unlike that wuss bag Manning, I kept going.

TGK and I upped the pace for a few miles until I could no longer keep up.  I told him to go on without me.  Pirate rules.  He did.


I slogged my beaten, bloody, and bitten body just past 12 miles and then called it a day.  I considered it a win that I had made it that far.  I rationalized that if you counted my 5+ post-midnight-flip-flop miles, I had surpassed my goal total.

I hope I’ve hit bottom and am now on my way back up.  It’s time to regroup and hit these last few weeks hard before the taper.  Again, that means less alcohol and more mileage.  Oh, and fewer break-ups, fireants, and forehead gashes would be nice too.


5 Responses to “When It Rains…”

  1. caitlin Says:

    Wow Allen, Sounds terrible. At least you can use this week to regroup, recuperate, and get your happy wheels back on track. I’m cheering for you.

  2. Aaron Says:

    Hangin in there camper! Can’t get too much shitter than that so things can only look brighter this week.

  3. Richard Hefner Says:

    Sorry to hear about the relationship with your girlfriend ending. That’s definitely the hardest type of thing to deal with. As for the running, a little less drinking and a little more running will probably fix that pretty quickly. and 43:49 is not THAT bad! Hey, at least your writing skills are still intact!

  4. Nathan Says:

    Hey bro, it was a tough 10k course for all of us. All I could manage was the thumbs up… normally would have tried to offer some encouragement.

    We’ve all been where you are right now. The good news: it gets much, much better. Always does.

  5. Ed Says:

    Hey, that was laugh out loud funny! And I’m qualified to laugh, trust me – I’ve been you, too many times!

    Hang in there, things will turn around….


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